Curate’s Egg (first seen in 1895). But we’re going to leap straight on our good friends the Royals, who also got up to stuff today. By 1917, Britain and her allies had been pursuing a bloody conflict against the Central Powers, led by the German Empire under Kaiser Wilhelm II, when our king, George V (the Kaiser’s cousin), was suddenly struck by a thought (no, that’s not the end of the story) and decided that it wasn’t particularly British of him and his kin to carry on calling themselves by the name of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, or the Dukes of Teck or Württemberg, or the Prince of Battenberg or of Schleswig-Holstein, all of which had an uncomfortable whiff of German about them. What had rammed the whole idea into George’s mind in the first place was probably when H. G. Wells wrote about his, “alien and uninspiring court,” to which he riposted, “I may be uninspiring, but I'll be damned if I'm alien.” So George changed the family name this day in 1917, to Windsor (wonder where he might have been when he came up with that). Even Kaiser Bill couldn’t resist having a sardonic pop, remarking that he’d “look forward to the first production of the Merry Wives of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.” Don’t be downhearted, folks: we soon got our own back on that pompous perisher when our troops started referring to him as “Little Willie.”
George must’ve still been feeling a touch sensitive about his unBritishness a year later when another cousin of his put him in a rather ticklish position. That’d be Nikolai Romanov, of course, who’d himself got into a horrible spot of bother just then, not least for having the title Tsar Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias (though Russia formally ended the Tsardom in 1721 and he was said to be “a very little fellow on very ordinary legs”), which gives an idea of the sort of guy he was. To be strictly fair to him, he’s the type of bloke who would have to improve markedly to even achieve uselessness, seeing the whole Empire went to the dogs in his time. He also managed to end up with the nickname Nicholas the Bloody because of his pogroms and his executions of political opponents. He was the spitting image of George V too, which didn’t help when things got tricky. Early in 1917, an ungrateful peasantry began to notice that, while they were freezing and starving, their glorious leader and his cronies were living the Life of Reilly, despite the fact that it was them who were responsible for all the hunger and shortages in the first place. So they started chanting, “Down with the Tsar!” Who then did what any head of state would do in such a situation and turned the police on them, to shoot them down in the streets. Which didn’t really help his cause all that much and, before he knew where he was, he had a fullscale Revolution on his hands and was swiftly penning his abdication.
It’s times like this when you really need the family to rally round and, what with the underlings literally turning Bolshie, Nicky thought it might be an idea to slip quietly away somewhere where the winters (and the people) weren’t quite so bitter. Say England, for instance. Where cousin Georgie had palaces galore standing empty where he might doss down for a few months while he waited for the call from All the Russias to arrive, begging him to come back Tsarring again. So he gives George a quick bell, only to find that the royal cousin is none too keen on the idea at all. Don’t forget, George’d only just convinced the British public that he wasn’t an alien himself, so the last thing he needed just then was some foreign autocratic relation who happens to look exactly like him popping out of the woodwork and pulling the rug from under him. So he told him, “Most awfully sorry and all that, old boy, but no can do, don’t you know?” After all, what’s the worst that can happen?
In April 1918, still hoping to be rescued, the Romanovs were taken to Ipatiev House, where they must have been intrigued to discover that it was referred to as “the House of Special Purpose.” Though they couldn’t’ve been expecting to be rudely awakened at two in the morning on 17 July and then asked if they wouldn’t mind popping down the basement for a minute where, as the ex-empress had to point out, there weren’t even any chairs for them to sit on. So some fellow by the name of Yurovsky sent for some and, once they were nicely settled and arranged in a rather formal grouping, he then told them to hold that pose and, whilst the whole family was gathered together, he was just going to take one or two quick shots. And then in marched the firing squad …
Charles VII of France: Jean Fouquet [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Joan Of Arc: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Death of John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury: Charles-Philippe Larivière [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Mary, Queen of Scots: After François Clouet [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Francis Walsingham: Attributed to John de Critz the Elder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre: By Jean-Baptiste Sabatier-Blot (1801-1881) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
“Good Riddance” (Punch cartoon showing George V sweeping away his German titles): Leonard Raven-Hill [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Nicholas II & George V: By Arthur William Debenham (1875–1944) Cowes (http://avaxnews.net/pictures/6937) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons